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Archive for the 'Persuasive Communication' Category

BT VideosHere is the fourth video in our new series that addresses a variety of specific communication challenges and offers practical advice that students can apply now in their coursework and take with them on the job.

This video helps students understand how to find the optimum balance of emotional and logical appeals when crafting persuasive messages. Few message appeals are entirely emotional or entirely logical, so knowing enough about the audience to mix the right blend of appeals is essential to creating effective persuasive messages for both internal and external audiences.

Instructor version (concludes with information about the Bovée & Thill business communication series, including links to order examination copies)

Student version (identical to the instructor version, except for the textbook information)

Taxi"I try to equate this illegal operation of [. . .] as a terroristic act like ISIS invading the Middle East" he said, "It is exactly the same menace."

Whoa. That must be one horrible outfit the speaker is referring to, to warrant comparison with a terrorist group so brutal that al-Qaeda cut ties with it.

The speaker is Alex Friedman, general manager of two Philadelphia taxi companies and president of the Pennsylvania Taxi Association, and he said this at a board meeting of the Philadelphia Parking Authority. And the diabolical operation in question? uberX, the ride-sharing service that is winning fans among consumers looking for an alternative to conventional taxi service—and winning enemies among taxi companies for presenting a form of competition they consider unfair and even illegal in some instances. (The uberX operation Friedman refers to recently began transporting passengers in Philly, even though the Parking Authority considers it an illegal operation and threatens to fine Uber drivers and impound their cars.)

Legal issues aside, referring to any business operation as a terrorist organization is an absurd use of metaphor. Moreover, it is—or at least should be—an ineffective, credibility-destroying communication strategy to use with any rational audience.

If you need to give your students an example of metaphorical speech and hyperbole gone horribly wrong, chances are you'll never find a better/worse example than this.


Photo credit:

Red Ants PantsSarah Calhoun founded Red Ants Pants because she was frustrated by the lack of hard-wearing pants for hard-working women. Her passion for meeting the needs of her customers shines through in the company's communication efforts—along with her zeal for making work fun and meaningful. Not many firms could tell their founding story in goofy rhyming couplets, but Red Ants Pants pulls it off perfectly.

Bovee and Thill blog – Hall of Fame – Red Ants Pants

Gregg Fraley is a highly regarded expert in the field of creativity and business innovation, but because his services are intangible, potential clients can’t “test drive” those services before making a purchase decision. His website shows the care he takes to build credibility as part of his communication efforts.

Bovee and Thill blog – Hall of Fame – Gregg Fraley

From Black Friday to Small Business Saturday to Cyber Monday, business communication over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend is all about buy, buy, buy.

In this hypersaturated message environment, this email missive from the outdoor-clothing supplier Patagonia on Cyber Monday definitely stood out, starting with the large headline "Don't Buy This Jacket" and a large photo of one of its signature fleece jackets.

Rather than promoting the jacket as a must-get gift for holiday shoppers, Patagonia used the email to talk about the environmental impact of its products and to encourage readers to take the Common Threads Initiative pledge: reduce, repair, reuse, recycle, and reimagine.

Here's how the company explained its unusual message:

Because Patagonia wants to be in business for a good long time – and leave a world inhabitable for our kids – we want to do the opposite of every other business today. We ask you to buy less and to reflect before you spend a dime on this jacket or anything else.

The message wasn't entirely un-promotional. It did point out that the high durability of the jacket meant that wearers wouldn't need to replace it for a long time. However, this was done within the context of the "reduce" message, and it clearly stands in opposition to the planned obsolescence that drives so many product categories today—how many weeks until the next generation of smartphones replaces the perfectly functional current generation?

Was Patagonia's message a cynical ploy to gain favor with its environmentally conscious target consumer? One might jump to that conclusion, but we've been following the company for a long time and respect its managerial ethos. While the message clearly resonates with the target audience, we believe it definitely fits the criteria of ethical communication, regardless of one's personal stance on sustainable commerce: It includes the information readers need in order to make an informed response, it is true in both word and spirit, and it is not deceptive in any way. 

This is a great example of communication ethics to discuss with your students, as well as an intriguing case study in promotional communication. For example, can a company benefit in the long run by discouraging customers to buy less in the short run?

Please let us know what you and your students think about this unusual message.

One of the most powerful advantages of electronic media is the ability to structure the design and delivery of a message in a way that supports the optimal flow of the various information points within the message—matching form with function, in other words.The brokerage firm TD Ameritrade did this beautifully on a webpage that directs the reader's eye on a clear path through a well-organized message. We've annotated an eight-slide PowerPoint presentation that shows each step in the communication flow.  Download from here or from SlideShare.

As George Bernard Shaw famously put it, the single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. One of the great promises of online business communication is the relative ease with which companies can test to see how well their communication efforts are working.

Online marketing expert Anne Holland’s website offers a great opportunity for students to test their acumen by predicting the relative performance of actual split-tested web communications. The archived tests on the site are subscription-only, but each week's new test and a commentary on the results are available for free.